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The Canterbury Tales and Other Works of Chaucer (Middle English), by Geoffery Chaucer, [14th cent.], at

The Canterbury Tales

The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue

 Whan ended was the lyf of Seinte Cecile,
 Er we hadde riden fully fyve mile,
 At Boghtoun under Blee us gan atake
 A man that clothed was in clothes blake,
 And undernethe he hadde a whyt surplys.
 His hakeney, that was al pomely grys,
560 So swatte that it wonder was to see;
 It semed as he had priked miles three.
 The hors eek that his yeman rood upon
 So swatte that unnethe myghte it gon.
 Aboute the peytrel stood the foom ful hye;
 He was of foom al flekked as a pye.
 A male tweyfoold on his croper lay;
 It semed that he caried lite array.
 Al light for somer rood this worthy man,
 And in myn herte wondren I bigan
570 What that he was til that I understood
 How that his cloke was sowed to his hood,
 For which, whan I hadde longe avysed me,
 I demed hym som chanoun for to be.
 His hat heeng at his bak doun by a laas,
 For he hadde riden moore than trot or paas;
 He hadde ay priked lik as he were wood.
 A clote-leef he hadde under his hood
 For swoot and for to keep his heed from heete.
 But it was joye for to seen hym swete!
580 His forheed dropped as a stillatorie
 Were ful of plantayne and of paritorie.
 And whan that he was come, he gan to crye,
 "God save," quod he, "this joly compaignye!
 Faste have I priked," quod he, "for youre sake,
 By cause that I wolde yow atake,
 To riden in this myrie compaignye."
 His yeman eek was ful of curteisye,
 And seyde, "Sires, now in the morwe-tyde
 Out of youre hostelrie I saugh yow ryde,
590 And warned heer my lord and my soverayn,
 Which that to ryden with yow is ful fayn
 For his desport; he loveth daliaunce."
 "Freend, for thy warnyng God yeve thee good chaunce,"
 Thanne seyde oure Hoost, "for certein it wolde seme
 Thy lord were wys, and so I may wel deme.
 He is ful jocunde also, dar I leye!
 Can he oght telle a myrie tale or tweye,
 With which he glade may this compaignye?"
 "Who, sire? My lord? Ye, ye, withouten lye,
600 He kan of murthe and eek of jolitee
 Nat but ynough; also, sire, trusteth me,
 And ye hym knewe as wel as do I,
 Ye wolde wondre how wel and craftily
 He koude werke, and that in sondry wise.
 He hath take on hym many a greet emprise,
 Which were ful hard for any that is heere
 To brynge aboute, but they of hym it leere.
 As hoomly as he rit amonges yow,
 If ye hym knewe, it wolde be for youre prow.
610 Ye wolde nat forgoon his aqueyntaunce
 For muchel good, I dar leye in balaunce
 Al that I have in my possessioun.
 He is a man of heigh discrecioun;
 I warne yow wel, he is a passyng man."
 "Wel," quod oure Hoost, "I pray thee, tel me than,
 Is he a clerk, or noon? Telle what he is."
 "Nay, he is gretter than a clerk, ywis,"
 Seyde this Yeman, "and in wordes fewe,
 Hoost, of his craft somwhat I wol yow shewe.
620 "I seye, my lord kan swich subtilitee --
 But al his craft ye may nat wite at me,
 And somwhat helpe I yet to his wirkyng --
 That al this ground on which we been ridyng,
 Til that we come to Caunterbury toun,
 He koude al clene turnen up-so-doun,
 And pave it al of silver and of gold."
 And whan this Yeman hadde this tale ytold
 Unto oure Hoost, he seyde, "Benedicitee!
 This thyng is wonder merveillous to me,
630 Syn that thy lord is of so heigh prudence,
 By cause of which men sholde hym reverence,
 That of his worshipe rekketh he so lite.
 His overslope nys nat worth a myte,
 As in effect, to hym, so moot I go,
 It is al baudy and totore also.
 Why is thy lord so sluttissh, I the preye,
 And is of power bettre clooth to beye,
 If that his dede accorde with thy speche?
 Telle me that, and that I thee biseche."
640 "Why?" quod this Yeman, "wherto axe ye me?
 God help me so, for he shal nevere thee!
 (But I wol nat avowe that I seye,
 And therfore keepe it secree, I yow preye.)
 He is to wys, in feith, as I bileeve.
 That that is overdoon, it wol nat preeve
 Aright, as clerkes seyn; it is a vice.
 Wherfore in that I holde hym lewed and nyce.
 For whan a man hath over-greet a wit,
 Ful oft hym happeth to mysusen it.
650 So dooth my lord, and that me greveth soore;
 God it amende! I kan sey yow namoore."
 "Ther-of no fors, good Yeman," quod oure Hoost;
 "Syn of the konnyng of thy lord thow woost,
 Telle how he dooth, I pray thee hertely,
 Syn that he is so crafty and so sly.
 Where dwelle ye, if it to telle be?"
 "In the suburbes of a toun," quod he,
 "Lurkynge in hernes and in lanes blynde,
 Whereas thise robbours and thise theves by kynde
660 Holden hir pryvee fereful residence,
 As they that dar nat shewen hir presence;
 So faren we, if I shal seye the sothe."
 "Now," quod oure Hoost, "yit lat me talke to the.
 Why artow so discoloured of thy face?"
 "Peter!" quod he, "God yeve it harde grace,
 I am so used in the fyr to blowe
 That it hath chaunged my colour, I trowe.
 I am nat wont in no mirour to prie,
 But swynke soore and lerne multiplie.
670 We blondren evere and pouren in the fir,
 And for al that we faille of oure desir,
 For evere we lakken oure conclusioun.
 To muchel folk we doon illusioun,
 And borwe gold, be it a pound or two,
 Or ten, or twelve, or manye sommes mo,
 And make hem wenen, at the leeste weye,
 That of a pound we koude make tweye.
 Yet is it fals, but ay we han good hope
 It for to doon, and after it we grope.
680 But that science is so fer us biforn,
 We mowen nat, although we hadden it sworn,
 It overtake, it slit awey so faste.
 It wole us maken beggers atte laste."
 Whil this Yeman was thus in his talkyng,
 This Chanoun drough hym neer and herde al thyng
 Which this Yeman spak, for suspecioun
 Of mennes speche evere hadde this Chanoun.
 For Catoun seith that he that gilty is
 Demeth alle thyng be spoke of hym, ywis.
690 That was the cause he gan so ny hym drawe
 To his Yeman, to herknen al his sawe.
 And thus he seyde unto his Yeman tho:
 "Hoold thou thy pees and spek no wordes mo,
 For if thou do, thou shalt it deere abye.
 Thou sclaundrest me heere in this compaignye,
 And eek discoverest that thou sholdest hyde."
 "Ye," quod oure Hoost, "telle on, what so bityde.
 Of al his thretyng rekke nat a myte!"
 "In feith," quod he, "namoore I do but lyte."
700 And whan this Chanon saugh it wolde nat bee,
 But his Yeman wolde telle his pryvetee,
 He fledde awey for verray sorwe and shame.
 "A!" quod the Yeman, "heere shal arise game;
 Al that I kan anon now wol I telle.
 Syn he is goon, the foule feend hym quelle!
 For nevere heerafter wol I with hym meete
 For peny ne for pound, I yow biheete.
 He that me broghte first unto that game,
 Er that he dye, sorwe have he and shame!
710 For it is ernest to me, by my feith;
 That feele I wel, what so any man seith.
 And yet, for al my smert and al my grief,
 For al my sorwe, labour, and meschief,
 I koude nevere leve it in no wise.
 Now wolde God my wit myghte suffise
 To tellen al that longeth to that art!
 But nathelees yow wol I tellen part.
 Syn that my lord is goon, I wol nat spare;
 Swich thyng as that I knowe, I wol declare.

Next: The Canon's Yeoman's Tale